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Top 10 Portrait Photography Tips

Professional portrait photographer Rossella Vanon shares her top tips for taking better portraits.

|  Portraits and People
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Words and images by Rossella Vanon -

Model photographed by Rossella Vanon
Photo © Rossella Vanon.

Tip 1

Choose subjects that inspire you, or find something inspiring in them when you are not the one making the choice. It can be their eyes, the way they smile, the way they move, their freckles or their hair. Focus your shot on that little detail that makes them special.

Tip 2

Have a chat with your subjects prior to or during the shoot, and get to know a bit of their personality. It will be helpful to you in many different ways. If you sense that they are nervous about having their pictures taken, you can break the ice by being super-nice and making a few jokes. Telling something personal about yourself also helps establish a ‘special’ connection with your subject and helps them open up as well in return. In any case, you will get to know more about who is on the other side of the camera and it will give you the great chance of not only capturing their look, but their personality too.

Photo © Rossella Vanon.

Tip 3

Get comfortable directing your subjects. Even if they are paying clients, they don’t know how things are looking on your side of the camera. If a pose isn't working, politely explain to them the reasons why, and provide a good alternative. It is important to be nice and friendly, but don’t be shy trying to be too respectful: you are the photographer, and the reason you are there is to take great shots, so that’s what you should be leaving the session with.

Tip 4

Put some music on! If your subject is not used to posing for a photoshoot, it can be really hard for you to get a good shot. Sometimes even proper models take a while to warm up to cameras. Create a friendly environment, talk and avoid long silences. Ask them what kind of music they like and put some of it on during the shoot. It will relax and inspire both of you.

Photo © Rossella Vanon.
Photo © Rossella Vanon.

Tip 5

Remember to shoot in between the poses too. That’s when your subject is less aware of the camera and when spontaneity really comes up. They are precious moments that are often missed.

Tip 6

Enjoy what you are doing! If you do, everyone around you will sense it and will relax and enjoy it all a lot more as well.

Model sat with balloons
Photo © Rossella Vanon.

Tip 7

Be creative, both conceptually and camera-wise. Portraits don’t have to be necessarily studio-based. Be creative with your choice of location. Experiment with shooting modes and settings too. Have you tried shooting with a long exposure in combination with a flash light and a slow-moving subject?

Tip 8

I personally love shooting portraits by using a very big aperture and blurring the whole background and part of the subject too. It gives a very simple, creative twist to the picture and I would definitely recommend it.

Photo by Rossella Vanon
Photo © Rossella Vanon.

Tip 9

If you are using natural light, try shooting against it. Photograph the subject with the sun behind them. You will have to consistently overexpose your camera and probably put a hood on your lens to avoid flare and help the focusing. I love the dreaming result it gives.

Tip 10

Try shooting through things. Fabrics, glass, plastic, branches, grass... If you are close enough to them and you're using a big aperture (small f number), they will all nicely blur and just add texture, colour and reflections to your shots.

Two modelsPhoto © Rossella Vanon.

Words and images by Rossella Vanon -

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